How to Get More Disabled Friends

Two Methods:Finding Disabled PeopleBeing Friendly

Perhaps you're a disabled person who would like more friends with disabilities. Or you have a disabled loved one (sibling, child, niece, parent, etc.) and want closer ties to the disability community. Here is how to put yourself out there and make friends.

Method 1
Finding Disabled People

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    Try support groups for people with disabilities. There are support groups for specific disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy), groups of disabilities (e.g. mental illnesses), or disability in general.
    • Make sure that you qualify for the group before you go. For example, if the group is only for people who have Down Syndrome, and you are the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, this is not a space for you.
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    Look for disability-related clubs and activities. From the Special Olympics to a social group to people with ADHD, there are plenty of recreational groups that focus on disability.
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    Visit disability communities online. You don't have to limit yourself to in-person friendships; the internet can be a great way to meet people like you.
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    Volunteer at a disability event. Many people with disabilities will show up to disability-related events, either as beneficiaries or as volunteers. Look for a positive, inclusive event tailored towards people with disabilities.
    • Make sure the event is disability-friendly first! Some disability organizations exploit disabled people instead of helping them. Check with the disabled community to make sure that people with disabilities actually support the event.

Method 2
Being Friendly

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    Show the same respect that you show to non-disabled people. People without disabilities sometimes treat disabled people as childlike, and this attitude can come across as condescending and very annoying. Talk to them like a real person.
    • Use your regular tone of voice. Don't modify your voice in pitch, volume, or speed unless they tell you they're having trouble understanding you.
    • Don't bend down or treat them as if they are younger than they actually are. Their only "real age" is their chronological age.
    • Speak directly to them, not to their translator, aide, or family (even if they don't exhibit typical listening body language).
    • Ask before helping them. Sometimes a disabled person really does need help, but other times they can handle things on their own. Ask before you jump in to the rescue.
    • Don't play with their service dog, wheelchair, tablet, or other accessibility device/animal without their clear permission.
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    Find common ground. Disabled people are people like anyone else, with unique interests and passions. Ask questions about their hobbies, plans, and favorite things. When they mention something you like, say you like it too, and talk about that thing together.
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    Make plans together. Some people with intellectual, developmental, or cognitive disabilities may have trouble initiating tasks and planning things. Thus, you might need to take initiative by suggesting an idea first, and handling most of the planning and logistics. Suggest a get-together, talk back and forth about what you want to do, and then help them work out the details or do it on your own.
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    If you aren't sure about their needs, just ask. It's okay to ask how to accommodate them and be helpful. As long as you're polite and respectful of their feelings, it won't bother your friend. Here are some examples of ways to ask politely:
    • "Would you like me to escort you across the street?"
    • "I've heard that sensory issues often come along with autism. Will you need to sit in a quieter part of the restaurant?"
    • "Do you have any needs I should be aware about?"
    • "I'm curious about cerebral palsy. What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about it?"
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    Accept their differences. Your new friends may behave in ways that seem unusual to you, and may have needs different from yours. This is okay. Let them be themselves and don't worry about it.
    • If they are seriously upsetting you or invading your personal space, let them know.
    • Look for the beauty in their uniqueness. Maybe your friend with Down Syndrome has the most beautiful eyes, or your Autistic friend waves her hands and squeaks because she's so happy to see you. Appreciate them for who they are.


  • If you aren't disabled, take time to examine your intentions. Do you think it's cute, trendy, or morally superior to have token friends with disabilities? Are you doing this out of genuine interest, or because of stereotypes or a desire to feed your ego?

Article Info

Categories: Disability Issues | Forming Friendships